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Sprayer to ‘healer’

New Delhi, Feb. 18: The man who introduced Parliament to the disruptive power of pepper spray stepped down as an MP today.

He didn’t stop at that: Lagadapati Rajagopal quit politics, saying he was “hurt” that Telugu people had been divided following the passage of the Telangana bill in the Lok Sabha.

“I’m sad, upset and extremely hurt. Now the Telugu people have so many scars, my job now is to heal them,” he said. “I have no interest left in politics.”

Rajagopal, who was elected from Vijayawada, had unleashed a burst of pepper spray on Thursday on some fellow parliamentarians following a ruckus over the introduction of the Telangana bill.

The resignation comes at a time the Lok Sabha’s Committee of Privileges, which has got punitive powers, has been asked by the Speaker to probe the spray assault.

Asked whether he regretted the February 13 incident, Rajagopal, who had earlier been suspended by the Congress, said his intention wasn’t to hurt anyone. “Whatever I did was to keep Andhra united.”

His only intention, he added, was to stop the division of his “beloved state”.

“Everyone criticised me for using the Telangana issue for political gain…. People don’t understand that this will have wider repercussions. More states will demand such divisions. A government cannot be swayed by sentiments,” Rajagopal, who had in 2009 said he would quit politics if a separate state is formed, told The Telegraph.

The 50-year-old mechanical engineer, who was among the richest in the current House, has a multi-crore company to fall back on as an alternative career but made it clear he would work towards uniting the two Andhras — Seemandhra and Telangana — in spirit.

“From now on I will work for the unity of the Telugu people through my NGO, Rajagopal Foundation,” the chairman of the Lanco group of companies said.

Asked about rumours that he was thinking of joining the party Andhra chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy planned to launch soon, Rajagopal said he wanted to “sit back and take stock” of the situation.

“I had always maintained that I would join Reddy’s party only if there is one united Andhra. Now, with the state divided, there is no point in doing politics,” he said. “I will now only work for the Telugu people.”